Extended Project Qualifications 2017
MPW introduced the EPQ in September 2015 with an initial cohort of four students. Two students achieved an A*, one an A and one a B. The 2016 cohort comprised six students with the 2017 cohort already looking as if it will be bigger still. Proceeding in alphabetical order, the first of this year’s students was Tara Bage, who wrote her EPQ on the reasons for HIV remaining such a problem in Western Kenya. Toby Bazin looked at Louis XIV and considered in what sense he could be considered an absolute monarch. Holly Fairgrieve considered what factors led to the cognitive development of the early members of our species, arguing that cooking vegetables provided us with the calories we needed to fuel a growing brain. Ronald Kim looked into causes of the rise of populist movements on the left and the right of the political spectrum. Luke Makris focused on Kenya and Uganda to address the issue of whether their political problems could be blamed in part on their colonial past. Finally, Mariya Shtumpf examined the new discipline of epigenetics and asked whether there is such a thing as epigenetic inheritance. In each case, the depth of research and time spent on writing and re-writing was truly impressive and will stand them in good stead when they take up their university places this autumn. Below, two of the aforementioned six give their own views on the EPQ.
This was my first large independent research project and from it I primarily realised that I enjoyed the freedom to research as I saw necessary which I found much more interesting and enjoyable than the controlled work that you have to for typical A-levels. The EPQ demanded a lot of time and effort to come together as I saw fit; hence at times it was a struggle to keep my other A-levels going whilst doing my EPQ. Whilst this was a difficulty it made me much better at getting my priorities in order. In particular, I learned how to find the most useful sources to investigate in the most time efficient manner. When I started, I wasted many hours scouring through entire books to find relevant information which whilst useful, was not entirely necessary.
Research was what took the longest time throughout the whole process as the subject matter I decided to write about had an abundance of information. Whilst at times it felt like confronting a never-ending mountain of information to analyse, from books to online resources, I believe I greatly benefitted from the experience. It improved my analytical skills improved, which also significantly helped me with my other A-levels and will also help me with work at university.
I would recommend the EPQ to anyone who either has a genuine interest in a particular subject or for those who want the ability to create a piece of work which will prepare you far better for university than the limited nature of A levels. By the end I was very pleased I decided to do the EPQ not only because of the skills I gained but also that I feel far more prepared for university.
Apart from giving me an opportunity to demonstrate a deep passion for the subject, the EPQ helped me to narrow the gap between the academic skills of a college-leaver and those of an undergraduate student, which includes being able to carry out independent research effectively and adhering to set deadlines.
I also learnt to be more decisive about what to research and be more realistic about research planning. As my chosen topic of epigenetics is a bit of a narrow technical field, it was really hard to understand some of the literature I came across, which required me to do a lot of reading on basic genetics, which proved and hopefully will prove to be very helpful in my studies at university. I have also broadened my research capability by exploring some online research tools like worldcat.org, which is a worldwide library catalogue and was very useful in finding relevant literature even in Russia, where I happened to stay while researching for my project. One of the very important skills I developed is explaining complicated things in a simple way, which I probably wouldn’t be given a chance to do outside of the EPQ. Another developed skill, essential for scientific writing, was to separate subjective points of view from the objective, because the latter are more relevant to science. Overall, I would certainly recommend taking an EPQ project if you want to look deeper into the answering a question in an area you find most interesting.